Showing posts with label disability discrimination lawsuit. Show all posts
Showing posts with label disability discrimination lawsuit. Show all posts

Friday, December 2, 2022

Court of CCPD holds the SBI's Promotion Policy to grades of SMGS IV and SMGS V (2022-23) as discriminatory to employees with visual disabilities, recommends review.

Court: Court of Chief Commissioner for Persons with Disabilities, New Delhi

Bench/Presided by : Ms. Upma Srivastava, CCPD

Case No:  : 13348/1021/2022

Case Title: Visually lmpaired Bank Employees Welfare Association (VIBEWA) Vs. The Chairman, State Bank of India & Ors.

Date of  Order: 01 December 2022

Brief of the Case:

The petitioner Visually Impaired Bank Employees Welfare Association (VIBEWA) is an association of visually impaired people working in the banking, insurance and other financial sectors in India. VIBEWA is the first association in the country formed exclusively for the empowerment and welfare of visually impaired employees in the banking and other financial sectors. 

VIBEWA challenged the impugned Promotion Policy issued by the State Bank of India on 21 Jan 2022 to the grades of SMGS IV and SMGS V (2022-23) as being discriminatory towards employees with vision disabilities vis-a-vis their non-disabled counterparts. 

On one hand the SBI has exempted employees with disabilities from RUSU (Rural and Semi Urban) assignments as a reasonable accomodation but the impugned promotion policy brings in the marks for mandatory assignments of branch experience, branch manager assignment and credit assignments as a pre-condition for promotion to SMGS IV and SMGSV without giving any suitable alternate to visually impaired employees. The policy under challenge gives a 5% weightage in the form of marks for work experience in branches while arriving at the final merit list for promotions to SMGS IV and SMGS V.  But in reality, no visually impaired officers are posted by SBI to these very assignments as the functions attacehd to these assignments are visual in nature. This means the visually impaired officers will be at mercy of junior  employees to perform a part of that function/task which would put them  in vulnerable situation in which high probabilility of commission of fraud exists. 

Most visually impaired in the officer cadre in SBI are posted in establishments other than branches such as regional offices, credit processing cells, zonal offices, etc., as the jobs in such offices are more suitable for them to be productive.  

However, the weightage in marks for branch experience would put those visually impaired without branch experience at a highly disadvantageous position for no fault of theirs’ and in fact would put them in a position of -5 (minus five marks) at the beginning itself vis-à-vis their non disabled counterparts.  Such a policy would not only put the existing officers due to promotion at a disadvantage but also would force others to get posted in branches where the assignments are not ideally suitable for higher cadres like MMGS III. This will jeopardize their entire career and thus is a ploy to withhold them from equal opportunities of promotion. 

The petitioner avered that the impugned policy acted as a ‘barrier’ leading to ‘discrimination’ on the basis of disability in carrier progression of officers with visual disabilities and defeats the spirit of RPWD Act, DoPT guidelines and SBI’s own equal opportunity policy and would simply mean that a officer with blindness would start with minus five (-5) in the merit list of the promotion vis a vis his non-disabled counterparts.

On enquiry of the Hon'ble court about the procedure which existed before this impugned promotion policy came into effect, the respondent informed that prior to the impugned policy, the requirement of operational assignment was not there.

Petitioner submitted that evidently the visually impaired in the banking sector have proved to be very productive in the jobs relating to marketing, recoveries, digital promotions, Human Resources, training, research, monitoring and follow up etc. and SBI is no exception. In fact, some visually impaired officials have received the highest ratings for their performance in their annual appraisal while competing with officials without disabilities, which means bank itself has recognized them as the best in that particular area of work. Therefore, the respondent bank as a reasonable accommodation should identify assignments/ job roles for visually impaired which they are already successfully performing and count such jobs in place of or equal to the mandatory assignments for the purpose of arriving at final merit list for promotion. And thus VIBEWA prayed before the court seeking directions:-

a.   Exempting visually impaired officials from the marks assigned to branch experience in promotions to SMGS IV and SMGS V in arriving at final merit list, as a reasonable accommodation. 

b.   Exempting visually impaired officials from mandatory assignments in arriving at final merit list for all promotions, similar to exemption from RUSU (Rural and Semi Urban) assignment, as a reasonable accommodation.

c.     To identify roles/ jobs that are performed by visually impaired officials and count the jobs/ work experience of visually impaired officers relating to marketing, recoveries, digital promotions, HR, training, research, monitoring and follow up etc.  as equivalent to the current mandatory assignment introduced by the impugned policy with respect to vision impaired employees, as a reasonable accommodation.

d.   In respect of any visually impaired official who is eligible for promotion to SMGS IV and SMGS V in the promotion year 2022-23, the respondent needs to exclude the mandatory branch manager/credit assignment and reconsider the candidature of such officials for the purpose of arriving at the final merit list. The final merit of such an official be arrived at excluding the marks for branch experience by normalizing their score to 100 by the marks they have scored out of 95.

"The Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act, 2016 provides for equality in employment. lt is certain that intention of the statute is that no policy can be framed which is discriminatory to divyang employees. Such a policy (impunged by VIBEWA) will leave divyang employees with Visual lmpairment in situation where they will either be dependent upon mercy of other employees of whom they are taking assistance of or else it will be impossible for them to perform such functions in individual capacity and hence they will never be considered to promotion to the posts of SMGS-IV and SMGS-V. The impugned promotion policy excludes divyang employees with Visual lmpairment hence, such a policy must be done away with or reasonable accommodation for visually impaired should be provided for in the policy.",  the court concluded.

Accordingly the Hon'ble Court made the following recommendations: -

a) ln case of divyangjan with Visual Impairment similar weightage in marks should be given to them for performing some other functions which they can easily perform in individual capacity and without exposing themselves to unnecessary risk. 

b) Complainant in its reloinder has given list of various posts. Functions associated with such posts can be performed by divyangjan with Visual Impairment in individual capacity. Hence, Respondent is recommended to consider performance of divyang employees with Visual Impairment holding such posts while evaluating them for promotion, instead of considering 'branch experience', 'mandatory branch manager assignment' and 'credit assignment'. 

c) Accordingly, the policy should be reviewed to prevent exclusion and provide reasonable accommodation for giving them equal opportunity in promotion.

Read the Order below: 

Monday, April 5, 2021

USA: Justice Department moves unopposed motion to intervene as Plaintiff in a Disability Discrimination Suit Against City of Chicago Regarding Pedestrians with Vision Disabilities

Dear Colleagues,

This is a disability rights enforcement action by the Justice Department of United States of America against the City of Chicago, seeking to remedy the city’s failure to provide people who are blind, including those who are deaf-blind or have low vision, equal access to pedestrian safety information at intersection crossings, which the city provides almost exclusively through visual-only pedestrian signals.  The United States has sought declaratory, injunctive, and compensatory relief for this violation of Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990. 

Having moved an unopposed motion to intervene as a plaintiff in this disability discrimination lawsuit filed by private plaintiffs American Council of the Blind of Metropolitan Chicago, Ann Brash, Maureen Heneghan and Ray Campbell against the City of Chicago under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act (Section 504), the Department of Justice found in its investigation that the allegations were true.

The complaint alleges that the city of Chicago fails to provide people who are blind, have low vision, or are deaf-blind with equal access to pedestrian signal information at intersections. Pedestrian signal information, such as a flashing “Walk/Don’t Walk” signal, indicates when it is safe to cross the street. 

Accessible pedestrian signals (APSs) are devices that provide pedestrians with safe-crossing information in a non-visual format, such as through audible tones, speech messages, and vibrotactile surfaces. Since at least 2006, Chicago has recognised the need to install APSs for pedestrians with visual disabilities. Yet, while Chicago currently provides sighted pedestrians visual crossing signals at nearly 2,700 intersections, it has installed APSs at only 15 of those intersections. 

Thus over 99% of Chicago’s signalised intersections subjects people who are blind, have low vision, or are deaf-blind to added risks and burdens not faced by sighted pedestrians, including fear of injury or death which in contravening the ADA and Section 504 that require that individuals with disabilities have equal access to public services, including access to pedestrian crossing information that is critical for safety and for full participation in community life.

Petition seeks to ensure that Chicagoans with disabilities are provided equal access to city services, particularly those services whose purpose is public safety.

The motion and complaint seeking intervention were jointly filed by the Disability Rights Section of the department’s Civil Rights Division and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Illinois.